The major political news story over the weekend was about some excerpts from “Game Change,” a soon-to-be released book by Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann. The book is slated to be published Monday (and looks as though it will be going on my reading list).
The excerpt that drew the most reaction from the right side of the blogosphere was a comment Senate majority leader Harry Reid made in private during the 2008 election campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Barack Obama as “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Obama is the nation’s first African-American president.
Reid has apologized for those remarks and President Obama has accepted his apology.
The most popular meme has be to compare Reid to Trent Lott’s unfortunate remarks at a Strom Thurmond birthday party.
To review, Trent Lott
lost his leadership post in 2002 after saying that the country would have been better off if Sen. Strom Thurmond — a segregationist — had been elected president in 1948.
So what’s the difference? Not much on the outside. But observe Lott had a record of voting against Civil Rights, for whatever reason. Reid has no opposition that I could find.
Trent Lott lauded the presidential candidacy of an avowed segregrationist, suggesting that things would have gone better if that candidate had been elected. His comments were normative and, if he meant what he said, racist because they implied that segregration was preferable to integration. We condemned Lott at the time.Reid was not discussing who should be elected president. He was merely commenting on Barack Obama’s viability as a presidential candidate. His view was that Obama’s race would not hurt him with voters who might be disinclined to elect a black man because he is light-skinned and able to talk white, as they say. I strongly suspect that many politicians and pundits made similar sorts of assessments. Even if incorrect, they are not improper, provided one is assessing how others might vote, as opposed to deciding to vote one’s self.
Apples and oranges, it seems to me.
And “Action do speak louder than words.”